The anti-racism movement that began in Minneapolis following the death of George Floyd has spread across the country, with peaceful protests now being held or planned in many smaller communities that traditionally have not been home to large minority populations.
On Tuesday, Riegelsville, Bucks County, became the latest small town to host a protest in response to what many people believe is rampant institutionalized racism in the United States; racism they say was evident in the death of Floyd, an African-American man who was killed May 25 when a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
Floyd’s funeral was held in Houston, Texas, Tuesday.
At the Riegelsville protest, which was advertised as a rally for unity and equality, organizer Jamie Davis said she was inspired to plan the event because she doesn’t want her young son to face the same discrimination she was aware of growing up as an African-American in a predominantly white community.
“We were faced with some of the challenges around institutionalized racism,” she recalled, adding that her adoptive mother was advised at the time not to foster a “brown child.”
Co-organizer Pamela Ptak discussed the history of the anti-racism movement in the U.S., which predates the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s.
The accomplishments of that era “gave courage to people who were without a voice,” she said, but noted that there is more work to be done.
“Even if we’re in a small town, it’s important for us to make our voices heard,” Ptak told those present. “It is our duty to be the voice of those who have been silenced.”
Laura Lawrence, treasurer for the Bethlehem chapter of the NAACP, encouraged attendees to become involved with her organization, noting that its membership isn’t defined by skin color.
“This is the moment, everyone,” she said, which prompted the crowd to break into applause. “It’s been a long road and I’m tired. It’s time for change. This is the time.”
“There’s only one race,” she added. “The human race.”
A peaceful protest against racism was held in Riegelsville Tuesday. About 100 people demonstrated for equality in the wake of the death of #GeorgeFloyd #BlackLivesMatter #protest #BLM pic.twitter.com/iRFGZDKDoa— Saucon Source (@SauconSource) June 10, 2020
The protest meeting place was by the Durham Road footbridge along the Delaware canal, about a block east of Rt. 611 in the borough of Riegelsville.
Most participants arrived carrying signs that expressed outrage over Floyd’s death and the politics of racism in the U.S., but supplies were also available to make them on-site.
After listening to remarks by Davis as well as other speakers and participating in a folk music singalong, the group marched the two short blocks to the intersection of Delaware and Easton roads, where the only traffic light in the small borough is located.
There they filled the sidewalks along Delaware Road at the light, chanted phrases like “Black Lives Matter” which have become rallying cries in the fight against racism and solicited support from passing motorists, some of whom honked their horns and displayed their own signs to demonstrate their solidarity with the movement.
Later, the group split up, with some marching uphill to the fire station and others heading north along Rt. 611 toward the Riegelsville Public Library, continuing to draw the attention of motorists as they did.
Most of the roughly 100 people who participated in the protest wore face masks, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Social distancing guidelines were not observed by most protesters, who were out of the street and stood on narrow sidewalks.
The spread of the protest movement to small towns in eastern Pennsylvania will continue this week, with others planned throughout the area.
A peaceful demonstration in support of Black Lives Matter is planned in Hellertown–tentatively outside Borough Hall–this Saturday, June 13 at noon.
Hosted by the group Saucon Democrats, as of Tuesday more than 100 people had registered interest in the rally, according to a Facebook event created for it.
Attendees are advised to bring signs, wear masks and practice social distancing.